Posted by ESPN.com's Pat Yasinskas
TAMPA, Fla. -- No matter how you look at it, this is not the way it should have ended.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers released Derrick Brooks on Wednesday afternoon. Forget for a second that they also let go Warrick Dunn, Joey Galloway, Ike Hilliard and Cato June. With all due respect -- and those last four guys deserve tons of respect -- guys like that get released every year.
But Derrick Brooks?
You don't simply cut the best player in franchise history, a first-ballot Hall of Famer, the greatest diplomat ever in the state of Florida. Do you?
The Bucs did.
"We want to let our players know that they're important to us, but this is a decision we had to make and a direction we had to go," general manager Mark Dominik said.
No, here's the direction you go with Brooks: You give him whatever he wants -- a spiffy retirement party, lifetime contract to be a coach, broadcaster or the executive vice president in charge of sitting on the beach. Or you convince him to take some minor/reduced role as a player to help ease the transition to a new regime.
You don't just show the guy the door, and it's certainly looking like the Bucs, who once terribly botched the end of icon John Lynch's time with the team, threw Brooks out on the street.
"Derrick is obviously one of the greatest Buccaneers of all time," Dominik said. "These decisions are tough for us to make. But it's a decision and a direction that we feel like we want to head as a franchise and an organization."
Sounds like the perfect formula for disaster. But let's slow down a bit and not place the whole blame on Dominik, new head coach Raheem Morris or the Glazer family that owns the team.
We don't know the whole story on this one. Dominik and Morris are falling on the sword, and right now it looks like they've gutted themselves.
But I'm thinking there's a very good chance they didn't just decide to toss Brooks. There's a chance -- I'm saying there's just a chance -- the Bucs tried to orchestrate one of those graceful endings mentioned above.
I'm also thinking there's a chance that Brooks, who is as proud a guy as you'll ever meet, might have turned all of that down because he wouldn't accept some reduced role and still believes he can make a big contribution somewhere else. Brooks might have forced the Bucs' hand.
We truly won't know for sure until Brooks tells his side of the story. By the way, there are indications Brooks may meet with the media Thursday.